Last updateFri, 19 Jun 2015 5pm

South of north – Mexico votes by the millions despite doubts of the worth of balloting, but faith dwindles

Unsurprisingly, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) came out on top in Mexico’s midterm election June 7.  

Nonetheless, the election held some surprises for President Enrique Peña Nieto and his co-religionists.  Guadalajara and its neighboring “twin” city, Zapopan, went to the Citizen’s Movement (MC) by landslides. And a 25-year-old independent candidate, Pedro Kumamoto, won District 10 in Zapopan by almost double his nearest opponent (see story page 7).    

Similarly, former soccer star Cuauhtemoc Blanco, running for a small party on a platform of change, became the mayor of Cuernavaca.  He told a delirious crowd of like-minded voters exactly what they wanted to hear regarding his defeat of Mexico’s big three parties, when he grinningly said, “I screwed them.”

Much of the post-election publicity has gone to Jaime Rodriguez, an independent candidate who won the governorship of the state of Nuevo Leon. A politician who usually speaks in very “direct” language, Rodriguez, most widely known as “El Bronco,” grew up as one of ten offspring of an illiterate mother.  A rancher, he was a member of the PRI for 33 years, until 2014.  A close Rodriguez friend of 16 years, Cesar Adrian Valdes Martinez — also an independent candidate — won the mayoral race in the Monterrey suburb of Garcia with 41.4 percent of the vote, beating out PRI candidate Carlos Barona Morales, who received 33.4 percent.

Some citizens were clearly apathetic this voting season, figuring there wasn’t much they could do to reign in the “nightmare world” that Felipe Calderon ushered in some ten years ago when he declared war on the drug cartels. With mass killings and disappearances now common and the present PRI government seemingly also unable to deal with the violence, a heavy dent in voter turnout was forecast for these midterm elections.

Sergio Aguayo, a highly respected political professor  at the Colegio de Mexico, said ominously: “I have the impression that we’re not going ... to a civic festival but rather a funeral.” 

Clearly a funeral atmosphere infected the air in southern Mexico.  At least inarguably so in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero. One previously regular voter told a local newspaper that she is now so disenchanted with another Mexican try at “successful democracy” that she didn’t vote this year. She lamented that the current crop of politicians — and political organizations — now dominating “the system” has ceased even pretending to be acting in the interests of  Mexican citizens. “They’re all just thieves. Corrupt pendejos. None of them cares about solving problems. They look out for their own interests, about finding ways of getting rich off the government.” 

National Electoral Institute President Lorenzo Cordoba told broadcaster Televisa on June 5 that three percent of the polling stations in Oaxaca would not be in place due to the area’s security situation.  (Militant teachers had threatened to disrupt the election there and torched electoral office prior to the vote.)

“The message is clear: You can rob and commit crimes, take over airports (which happened in Oaxaca) and the government will receive you,” said Claudio X. Gonzalez, director of the education advocacy association, Mexicanos Primeros, and a critic of the efforts of teachers’ unions to sabotage educational reforms.

Although recounts have been called, it looks as if Peña Nieto’s PRI and its ally, the Green Party, will have the largest number of representatives in the federal congress and win the majority of the governorships and mayors’ races. 

Analysts attribute this lead to the lack of attractive alternatives, rather then the president’s performance. He has an approval rating of just 39 percent, according a Reforma newspaper poll. That same poll finds that 60 percent of those interviewed said corruption has increased under Peña Nieto’s administration.  Simultaneously, the opposition initially worked with Peña Nieto to achieve reforms, but then stayed silent as scandals continued to emerge.